Monday, December 10, 2012

How Authors Write- Elle Druskin

Today, I welcome fellow MuseItUp author Elle Druskin, Romance and Mystery author, to share her writing process with us.

    What do you write?
    This is a deceptively simple question with a complicated answer. I’m not sure the genre label is important. The one rule that cannot be broken in any writing is Write a Good Story. When I wrote my first book which was written for the sole purpose of trying to figure out how to write a book, I had no idea what I had written. It wasn’t going to be seen by anyone so it didn’t matter which genre it might turn out to be. At least, that’s what I thought. You can imagine my surprise when To Catch A Cop was published and nominated as Best Romantic Comedy of 2010 by The Romance Reviews.
I thought it was a romance. As it turned out, it was reviewed as romance and mystery. I never saw the mystery; I knew it was there, but weak, in my opinion. What did I know? Did it matter? I don’t think so. Readers can figure out the genre and some books are cross genre. A great story is a great story and the genre label will take care of itself as long as it’s a great story. That being said, I’ve mostly written romance and mystery. Currently, I’m focusing on The Liberty Heights series. That could legitimately be labelled romance, small town romance, romantic comedy and probably some other genres. I have a great time writing the series and fortunately, my editors are just as devoted to Liberty Heights and all the wacky things that seem to happen in the town. I was pretty tickled when a reader wrote to me after reading Animal Crackers (Book 1 in the series) asking for driving directions to Liberty Heights. What a disappointment for her that the town isn’t real, it only exists in my head but I know exactly how it looks, what the people look like, sound like and just about everything else so it’s real to me. 

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
I have used all of the above. My first book was first person. I thought that would be easier for me to control and not run the risk of “head-hopping.” During the re-write, I added a third person point of view but the bulk of the book was told from first person. Reviewers commented that it worked well, that switching point of view did not detract in any way.

How do you get started with a book- is it an idea, a character, vary from story to story? 
I think I probably start with the germ of an idea. I don’t necessarily write sequentially but in bits and pieces that eventually are pulled together to create a coherent story. These scenes point out places where linking scenes might be needed to craft an overall book that hangs together. For the Liberty Heights series, I use secondary characters that may appear in previous books, but then I decide to bring them front and center and give them their own story. I use the characters who were primary in earlier books as secondary. I kind of like that because it allows all the characters to keep developing and for me as the writer, and for the readers, to learn more about them. They surprise me lots of times and I write the series!

Do you draft quickly?
As I said, I don’t write in sequence. I might have some ideas for scenes and as I am writing them, others start taking shape. I usually know what ending I am writing towards but not necessarily everything that might happen along the way. It just unfolds scene by scene. Whether or not this happens quickly or takes a fair amount of time doesn’t matter, as long as it ultimately results in a book that fits the series, adheres to the tone (Liberty Heights is more than a little bit quirky ) and still has fresh elements.

Do you do research before your first draft or during?
That depends on the type of book. I might need to do some research but it can also be done during the writing, or blanks can be left where I mark places that I have to revisit once I am satisfied with the scene development. As far as research goes, there is no substitute for quality literature. Surfing online is not research, sorry, but it isn’t. It might be a good starting point but not the end point. Research should mean reading quality literature that is most often found at a college library, consulting archives, or occasionally, spending time with a professional to gain insight into that profession. In terms of research, I think I’m a bit advantaged. For my doctoral work, I conducted archival research and oral history interviews so I’ve had a pretty good grounding in research methodology. That doesn’t mean you need a PhD to research material for a novel but it does mean a writer should be able to differentiate between a reputable source and let’s say a less than reliable source of information. It’s surprising how many people cannot differentiate.

Do you outline?
No. It doesn’t work for me. It’s fine for other writers who adhere strictly to the outline but I’ve found even when I tried, the final product was so different to the outline that there was no point in it for me. Every writer is different with a different voice, style and technique. If outlines work for you, that’s great. They just don’t work for me.

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
I use Beta readers. They don’t see a draft until I feel it is as good as it gets. Liberty Heights is particularly special and one of my beta readers said she laughed so hard reading Animal Crackers that she wet her pants, so we now have the “wet your pants rule.” If you don’t laugh that hard at least once, the book is not good enough. My beta readers know what to look for, believable characters, balance of narrative and dialogue, realistic dialogue, a well paced story that has twists and engaging characters. Happily, they’re as addicted to Liberty Heights as I am and continually ask me to write a new story and even make suggestions who they would like to see featured. They don’t always get what they want, but they’re always happy to read another story. There are 2 books published in the series, Animal Crackers and The Life of the Party. Book 3, Hanky Panky, will be out in December 2012. The beta readers have read Books 4 and 5, and happily, loved them both. Book 4 has been submitted so now it’s a case of Wait and See if accepted.

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
One of the cardinal rules of writing is to be a good reader. It’s a fatal mistake to stop reading because one is so caught up in writing. Reading is a pleasure, first and foremost. In terms of writing, reading teaches vocabulary, how to create tension, page turners, character development, and many other elements of the craft. I read anything and everything and generally, I read about 4 books a week. That includes fiction and non-fiction. The bottom line is reading is an investment in the craft of writing.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Plenty! I think I’ve learned a considerable amount in terms of balance in character point of view and how much information to reveal. One of my earlier flaws was giving away too much, too soon. It’s a mistake a lot of writers tend to make early in their writing career. Hold it back, let it unfold slowly and use that to twist the tension line.
What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?

Here’s a brief synopsis of The Liberty Heights Series books.

Animal Crackers: You’re fired. Karma really slammed Manhattan workaholic Hayley Weaver. Out of work, out of money and out of luck. In desperation, she grabs the first job offered, house-sitting a movie star’s home. How tough could it be? Water the plants, take in the mail. Oops! Nobody told Hayley the house is in New Jersey and loaded with more critters than the Beverly Hillbillies. Local cutie and veterinarian Jake Marx is dying to meet a woman he hasn’t known since kindergarten. With Jake on animal phobic Hayley’s speed dial, the whole town is in cohoots to give Jake and Hayley their happily ever after.

Life of the Party:
Cruise director and party organizer extraordinaire Ellie Marx sweeps into Liberty Heights organizing a party for any and every possible occasion. Daddy baby showers, Not Quite Sweet Sixteens, beach parties with no beach. No problem. Nothing stops Ellie who’s on a collision course with foreign correspondent Zach Resnick. After ten years on the road, Zach’s finally home in Liberty Heights seeking peace and quiet to write a book. Cranky Zach doesn’t stand a chance with Ellie around because she’s determined to turn him into The Life of The Party.

Hanky-Panky: Kaboom! A gas leak destroys Dana Fremder’s apartment and business in Brooklyn. With nowhere to go, Dana runs straight to best friend Hayley Marx in Liberty Heights where a gunman is running loose. Or so Dana thinks. Voice over actor Hank Axelrod is loaded with sound effects that pop, whine and screech, irritating Dana’s overstretched nerves. Too bad for Hank and Dana, that Grandma Baumgart’s joyride on a skateboard results in a concussion, and an unshakeable conviction that grandson Hank and Dana are married. Nobody wants to upset Grandma. What can Hank and Dana do?
It’s Grandma as matchmaker along with Algernon the Meerkat. More romance, fun and mayhem in Liberty Heights.

You can find my books in lots of places.

My website and blog which includes interviews, my world wide beach blog, travel tips, excerpts from books, trailers and downloadable bookmarks can be found at:

I’m frequently spotted at Books and Writers Community. It’s a great hangout for writers and readers. You’ll find some very famous names engaging in all sorts of discussions there:

I’m also on Facebook and Twitter:


  1. Nice interview, Elle. You have a very interesting approach to writing. I've never tried writing non-sequentially, probably because I have no idea how things will play out later in the book (even if I do write an outline).

    As for giving away things too soon, I have the opposite problem. I hold back secrets too long. One of my CPs wants to hit me over the head about that.

  2. Holding back isn't bad! I think the important thing is to continually twist the tension line rather than trying to add to it.

  3. Enjoyed reading this, Elle. I always like to hear how other writers go about the process. Never know when I can borrow an idea to help my writing. Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      This is my third attempt to reply (!). I don't think it matters how you approach whatever you write. The important thing is to find what works for you. Ultimately, the final product is all that matters and not necessarily how you arrived there. It's probably part of our own personalities and eccentricities too. What works, works!

  4. It always amazes me how different each writer's approach is. And while knowing that what works for one does not always work for all, it is fun trying out things that other authors do to see if it will work for you.

    1. Hi Mary,
      Hey!! I'm finally getting on here and past the redirecting that keeps happening! Doing the Happy Dance . Like I said, I think the important thing is to find what works for you. I may not know much, we're always learning, but I have learned that most of the time, I will end up write something that is humorous, quirky and a little eccentric which all makes sense within the context of the book. I have tried to write other things, a suspense novel that really scared me (and I wrote it and knew what was coming and it STILL scared me), but in general, it's pretty clear that I tend naturally toward the humorous type of writing so why bother to fight it? As long as readers enjoy it too, and they do, then it's fine and it doesn't matter how I ended up writing the final product.

    2. BTW Forgot to add that Book 4 in the Liberty Heights series has been accepted. Light My Fire is due for publication in June 2013. For those who follow the series, this story will focus on mayor, firechief and paramedic (hey, it's a small town!) Woodrow "Woody" Wilson and widowed Kara Portman Wilson. There are some new characters that I think readers will enjoy and some of the same ones from the series will also appear. You will not believe what Liberty Heights can do to an election and Founder's Day. Even I was laughing and I wrote the darned thing!


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